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Oak Forests, Illinois.
by Melody Lane
Oak Forest, Illinois
Miss Parker and Sydney stood in a pet shop. Miss Parker was looking through one of Jarod's red notebooks. She glanced at several headlines, "Laboratory Pet Stealing Plan Exposed," "Pets Reunited with Owners"
"Jarod was a strange one," said the young blonde sales woman named Emily. She had brown eyes and wore a red apron over jeans and a white tee-shirt. She was feeding a parrot that sat on her arm. "He was very good at finding homes for the animals. He always seemed to know what kind of animal people were looking for even if they didn't. We sold more animals the week he was here than in the last three months. He sure left in a hurry though."
"Did he say where he was going?" Miss Parker asked looking up from the notebook.
"No, I tried to get him to stay and get a permanent position here but he said 'there are lessons to be learned' but I have no idea what he meant," Emily said.
A sweeper walked up and handed a small brown package to Sydney. They'd found it in a desk in the back room. On the package was a note. It read To: Sydney. Sydney opened the package. Inside was a box of white chalk. "Miss Parker look at this," Sydney said a little puzzled.
She glanced at the box. "It's chalk Syd," she said dryly. "Let's go." As they headed back out to the limo Miss Parker lit up a cigarette. She was rather exasperated with this whole stop.
"It's a clue," Sydney said still staring at the box of chalk.
"It's another one of Jarod's games," Miss Parker said letting out a puff of smoke as they got into the limo. "I don't play his games anymore," she added.
Sydney continued to examine the box. On the front it read:
WHITE 7 PIECES
TWO MORE CENTIMETERS FREE!
Sydney opened the box. He looked at the chalk. On each piece was a word. "There lessons to be learned," Sydney read. "Interesting."
"What?" Miss Parker asked as she slammed the limo door.
"This box says 7 pieces of chalk. There's only six," Sydney explained. " I wonder what happened to the other piece."
* * *
The chalk went smoothly onto the blackboard. Jarod dressed in a gray suit wrote "Jarod Allen" in neat cursive. Then he turned around. "Class my name is Jarod Allen and I am your new teacher," he said. Then he held up a wire cage with a hamster in it. "And this is Justin." The class laughed.
* * * * *
There are Pretenders among us. Geniuses with the ability to become anyone they want to be.
In 1963 a corperation known as the Centre isolated a young Pretender, named Jarod, and exploited his genius for their research.
Then one day, their Pretender ran away....
* *THE PRETENDER* *
Stewart Elementary School
"Mr. Jarod, I'm glad your our teacher," said a little girl who was putting on her jacket. She had curly brown hair and gray eyes. Her jacket was navy blue.
"Thank you, Kacie," Jarod replied.
Just then Principal Carter walked up. "Jarod, there's a staff meeting tomorrow before school. It's about hiring a security guard since teachers are worried about security. But who wouldn't be? Miss Rollin was a fine teacher who will be dearly missed," Principal Carter explained.
"I'm sure she was," Jarod said. Then as Principal Carter turned and went down the hall Jarod opened a red notebook. Jarod looked at the headlines; "Teacher Stabbed in Alley," "How Safe are Our Small Towns?" "Students Mourn Loss of School Teacher" and "Zero Suspects in Teacher Stabbing." Beside one headline was a picture of a woman who looked about thirty. She had brown hair and thin rimmed glasses over what would of been blue eyes if the picture had been in color.
Jarod looked sad a second then reached for his suit jacket and briefcase before heading down the hall.
* * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
"Uh, Miss Parker, this just came for you," Broots said handing her a thin brown package as Sydney walked in.
Miss Parker opened it. Inside was a pencil. Written on it was "There are lessons to be learned. "What is that supposed to mean?" Miss Parker snarled.
"It's another clue," Sydney said.
"Chalk and a pencil," Broots stated.
"Maybe Jarod's starting working at Office Depot," Miss Parker said her eyes widening to her sarcastic tone.
"Well I haven't seen chalk like that since I was in school," said Broots as Miss Parker and Sydney left the room.
"And here's your key Mr. Allen," said the hotel manager.
"Please, call me Jarod. I was wondering, did you know Jessica Rollin?" Jarod asked.
"The school teacher? I'd seen her around but not much. Terrible how she was murdered," the motel manager replied
Jarod walked to his motel room. He laid his computer on the desk and laid his suit jacket on the bed.
* * *
The Next Day
Stewart Elementary School
"Okay, funding for a security guard is low," said a man. He sat at the head of along brown table. He wore a black suit and had brown eyes. Jarod also sat at the table.
"But Superintendent Sanford, we need that security guard," said a red haired woman teacher with gray eyes.
"Nothing has happened in the two months since the stabbing," Principal Carter reminded. " I see no reason why the security guard can't wait another month or two."
Jarod gave Principal Carter a searching look. A look of innocence and intrigue.
"A security guard would make me feel a lot safer," said the red haired woman.
"Mrs. Harold, no one else has been killed. Besides, it was one random stabbing," argued Principal Carter.
"Think of the children. There's dangers to them too," Mrs. Harold replied.
"At this time, I see no reason to get a security guard. I'll re-evaluate the situation in two months," Superintendent Sanford closed his briefcase. "Meeting adjourned." He got up and left.
Jarod decided to talk to Mrs. Harold. "Mrs. Harold, how well did you know Miss Rollin?" Jarod asked her in the hallway.
"Jessica and I we go way back. I remember that day so well. We exited the building together that Friday. She seemed a little nervous, but I thought she was just exhausted. She said she'd found something important," Mrs. Harold replied. "We left the building together. She's the only teacher who preferred wearing jeans and a tee-shirt to school everyday. She was also had her black purse and a navy blue folder."
"Did you tell the police about this?" Jarod asked.
"Superintendent Sanford took all our statements and gave them to the police himself to avoid confusion." Mrs. Harold turned to leave. "See you at lunch Jarod."
* * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
"Broots, have you found where Herbert's Chalk Factory is located?" Sydney asked.
Just then, Miss Parker entered. "Talk to me Broots I want to know exactly where Jarod is," she ordered.
"I've uh, narrowed it down,but the factory shut down three months ago. It was in either Montana," he glanced at the computer screen. "Wisconsin or Washington."
"I want to be contacted as soon as you know. Got me Broots?" Miss Parker asked.
"Uh ok," Broots mumbled a little nervous.
* * *
Jarod was working on teaching Math with real apples but he noticed one boy in the back looking down at his desk instead of paying attenion.
"Okay, everyone get into groups of four, combine your apples and after slicing each one into four pieces, write down how many you have. Use a two step equation to explain your answer," Jarod explained, as he made his way to the back of the classroom. "Andrew, why aren't you paying attenion?" Jarod asked.
Andrew shrugged his shoulders. His hands were firmly gripping onto something. "What's that?" Jarod asked. Andrew opened his hands. "Pieces of plastic molded into small models of people. How interesting!" Jarod exclaimed.
"They're action figures," Andrew said. "This is Superman, this is Spiderman and this is Batman and Robin."
"Sixteen!" came a shout from a girl in front of him.
"Very good, Shannon," Jarod said. "Now, everyone you are welcome to eat your apples. Andrew, why don't you join Danny, Lizzie and Kacie's group?"
Andrew nodded. "Here Mr. Jarod, you can have Superman I have another one at home." Andrew handed Jarod his Superman action figure. Jarod smiled.
"Mr. Jarod, can I give a slice of apple to your hamster?" asked a little blond haired girl, shyly.
"Sure Annie," Jarod answered, as he put the hamster cage down on a desk so Annie could reach it.
* * *
Jarod walked past the teacher's lounge. "Jarod!" called Mrs. Harold. She was carrying a tray of food. Jarod turned and looked at her. "Aren't you eating?" she asked.
"No, I have something important to do," Jarod replied with a smile.
"Well, would you like some M&M's?" Mrs. Harold asked. She handed the package to Jarod. He poured some into his hand and tasted one.
"Candy coated chocolate. These are very good!" Jarod exclaimed. "They should sell these. They would make a very good candy."
"You've never had M&M's?" Mrs. Harold asked, slightly puzzled.
"I had a very isolated childhood," Jarod answered eating another one. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Mrs. Harold said as Jarod left eating his handful of M&M's.
* * *
Jarod walked into his motel room taking a tie and a private
investigator badge off. He tossed a folder onto a desk. On it read :
Jarod sat at the desk and grabbed a Pez canister as he opened the folder.. It was the police report on the murder of Jessica Rollin. The police guessed it was possibly a mugging. On the bottom was written : carrying purse, wallet missing. Jarod put down the folder and got up.
Still carrying the folder, Jarod walked to the alley where the murder had taken place. He looked at pictures in the folder. He could see how the body was found.
Jarod pretended he was the murderer. He could see the man taking the navy blue folder and then throwing away the wallet to make it look like a mugging. The wallet landed behind a trash can. Then, just as Jarod had pretended, he found the wallet behind a trash can. However the folder Mrs. Harold had mentioned was no where in sight.
Jarod passed the school. Walking into the building, carrying a blue folder was Principal Carter. "Principal Carter," Jarod said with an accusing expression. "It's time you learned your lesson."
* * *
Jarod stopped at the Danter Diner on his way to the motel. It was a small diner decorated in red and yellow. "Mr. Jarod!" It was a boy with green eyes and light blond hair. He ran up to Jarod from the counter.
"Andrew," Jarod greeted. A woman approached as well. She also had light blonde hair and green eyes. She wore white jeans and a pastel pink shirt. "Hello," Jarod said to her.
"Hello. You must be the teacher I've been hearing so much about," she said. Jarod smiled. "I'm Nicole Pearson, Andrew's mother." They shook hands. "Please, have a seat. Can I get you anything?"
"Yes. Coffee please," Jarod said sitting at one of the swiveling stools at the counter. Nicole went behind the counter as Andrew joined Jarod.
"My mom owns this diner," he told Jarod.
Nicole placed a coffee in front of Jarod in a navy blue mug. "Thank you," Jarod said as he took a sip.
"So, what made you become a teacher?" Nicole asked.
"I wanted to help people," Jarod answered. Nicole smiled.
"I'm going to go play," Andrew said, heading for the back stairway that led to the house above the diner.
"I really think you are doing a wonderful job," Nicole said sitting on a stool behind the counter. "Andrew's father died two years ago, and Andrew really doesn't like school."
"Well, I'm glad I could help," Jarod answered.
* * *
Jarod spent the evening in his motel. It was cluttered with action figures Pez canisters and M&M's. He picked up his phone and dialed. "Superintendent Sanford, there's something we should talk about," he said into the phone.
Jarod fed some apple to his hamster. Then, put a folder in a large manila envelope. He picked up the phone and dialed. "Mrs. Harold, I was wondering if you could fax me your statement?" Jarod fiddled with a small, clear, plastic packet with red liquid in it.
Jarod ate some M&M's while he waited for the fax. He also filled a serenge and tested it. When the fax came, he placed it in the manila envelope. Jarod made one final phone call. "Andrew, could you do me a favor?" On the envelope Jarod wrote: DANTER POLICE DEPARTMENT. A knife gleamed in Jarod's hand as he said, "Principal Carter, it's time for a little justice."
* * *
Stewart Elementary School
Jarod sat in the lounge eating M&M's. Andrew walked by the lounge He smiled a Jarod and went on past it. A couple seconds later a fire alarm sounded. The teachers each looked at each other bewildered. Then hurried out of the school.
Jarod rushed down to the office. There he met Mrs. Harold and they began searching Carter's office as planned. "Found it!" they announced in unison.
They both held up a navy blue folder. Jarod looked at them. They were identical. He took them and then jotted down a note. Then, Jarod and Mrs. Harold hurried out of the building to avoid suspicion.
It was when Principal Carter returned to the office that he noticed his folders were gone. A note on his desk read: Alley, 8pm, Alone.
That afternoon, Jarod looked over the folders. They dealt with state funding and Stewart Elementary School's attendance. Except in one folder Stewart Elementary had 957 students and in the other it only had 543 students. This added almost 144,900 dollars to the school's funding. However that money was not being used for the school. The school's account did not add up with the extra money. Obviously, someone was pocketing the money. Jarod knew the answers in one folder were lies. Now, he would show the consequences of lies to Principal Carter.
* * *
Principal Carter entered the alley. It was dark, and he had the eerie feeling he was being watched or followed. From behind one of the buildings, Jarod was watching him. "Are you scared Carter?!" Jarod called out.
"Who's there?" Carter yelled, spinning once to look around.
"Scared like Jessica Rollin was when she was in this alley. The night you murdered her!" Jarod accused.
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Carter replied, still looking for his taunter.
"This must be how Jessica Rollin felt. Knowing someone was out there but not knowing where or who. That is-- until you stabbed her," Jarod continued from a position near a building. "Why'd you do it Carter? Was it for the 145,000 dollars you were getting for lying about the number of students at your school? Is that what life is worth to you Carter?" Jarod continued from behind a corner.
"Look, she got into my business!" Carter yelled.
"What is your business, Carter?" Jarod asked finally revealing himself as he came out from behind a building.
"Jarod! I should have known," Carter replied.
Just then Jarod took out his knife and waved it around. Carter stepped back. "Admit it Carter, you killed Jessica Rollin!" Jarod put his knife in a rigid position backing Carter up against a building.
"I warned her not to get involved," Carter said. "So I told her to back off but she wouldn't. So I set up a meeting. I..."
"...So you lured her to this alley, stabbed a knife through her heart and left her to bleed to death," Jarod taunted, his knife near Carter's neck.
"Okay! Okay! Your right. I killed her!" Carter admitted fiercely.
Jarod moved his knife down near Carter's chest. When Carter raised his arm toward the knife, Jarod stuck his serenge in Carter's chest and dropped a fake blood packet on him. As Carter fell to the ground, Jarod ran around the corner of the building. "Help me, Jarod, please," Carter gasped.
"I'm sure Jessica Rollin asked the same of you!" Jarod yelled back. Jarod met Mrs. Harold. She held his manila folder, in which he dropped a tape recorder from his pocket. "Can you take this to the police department?"
"Yeah sure Jarod. What about Carter?" Mrs. Harold replied.
"It'll wear off in an hour or so. He'll be fine," Jarod answered.
"What about you?" Mrs. Harold asked.
"I have one last order of business," Jarod smiled as he headed away.
* * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
"Got it!" Broots announced.
"You'd better," Miss Parker warned as her a Sydney walked over. They'd been awakened an hour earlier when Broots had been "close". "Where is he?" Miss Parker demanded.
"Montana," Broots said with a hint of satisfaction. "Jarod's in Danter Montana. It's a very small town. Population 1,926. It was hard to find but I...."
"Shut-up Broots!" Miss Parker ordered. "Let's go Syd, we've got a plane to catch!"
* * *
"TEACHER STABBED BY PRINCIPLE" was the headline of the Danter Daily Chronicle. It was a beautiful Saturday morning as the black car pulled up in front of the Danter Diner.
Nicole folded the Chronicle as a tall reddish brown haired woman and an old man going bald got out of the car. They entered the diner. The woman took off her shades as they walked in.
Nicole was behind the counter. She was expecting them but not so soon. Jarod had only left the night before." What can I get you?" Nicole asked.
"Have you seen this man?" Miss Parker asked. She held up a picture of Jarod.
"Yes," Nicole replied. "He was a wonderful teacher." Miss Parker rolled her eyes. "He left a while ago."
"Did he say where he was going?" Sydney asked.
"No, but he left this for you," Nicole held up a red notebook which Miss Parker snatched. She skimmed the headlines. Nicole handed Sydney a copy of the morning newspaper. Miss Parker noticed a motel in one of the pictures in the notebook. They'd past that on the way in.
Miss Parker and Sydney left the diner and went to the motel. As the entered the motel room the were showered with action figures. Miss Parker was annoyed. On the bed were M&M's spelling a sentence. "All trails have been washed clean," Sydney read.
Miss Parker picked up a red model car with two action figures in it. It was wet. "All trails have been washed clean," Sydney repeated.
"Where has Jarod gone now?" Miss Parker queried.
* * *
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Exact same moment
A hose sprayed water on the windshield of a red convertible. Jarod smiled at the people in the car. "Welcome to Al's Car Wash," he greeted. "I'm Jarod."